posted on March 10, 2008 13:54
It’s a Small World After All…
Shawnee’s PGA Championship memories come to life in Orlando
Every time I drive down the ridge overlooking the Shawnee Inn & Golf Resort my thoughts travel back in time to 1938 when the PGA Championship was played there. I imagine what it must have been like with a large gallery walking the fairways and crossing the bridge to the island, while following the match-play final in that Championship between Sam Snead and Paul Runyan.
This memorable bit of nostalgia, which replays itself in my mind each time I travel that ridge came to life at the 2000 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, FL. Perhaps it was the nearby Disney magic that was responsible for what occurred. I prefer to think it was a combination of fate and the power of intention that I exercised for years in my daily drive down that ridge.
As I walked the floor at the PGA show, I heard that Sam Snead was at one of the booths for an unannounced visit. What a great coincidence. I had never met the “Slammer,” and with my connection to Shawnee, it was a great basis for an introduction.
I turned the conversation to the 1938 PGA Championship final against Runyan, and because he (Snead) had been beaten handily, I asked Mr. Snead if he would mind discussing the match.
I’d heard the West Virginia native could be ornery at times and he was anything but. To my delight, with the steely glare of a man who still wants a rematch, he graciously said, “Heck, I don’t mind talking about that.”
He then proceeded to recall the details of that match from 62 years ago, as if it were yesterday. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” he said, still perturbed at the thought. “I missed a couple of putts and he made everything. I was out-driving him by 50, sometimes 60 yards, but he didn’t miss a putt. It was unbelievable.”
Having lived and played golf at Shawnee for the past decade, it was a thrill to finally meet Sam Snead and get his personal account of that 1938 match. What a great sense of completion, I thought. That was until breakfast the next morning. Upon walking out of the hotel restaurant, I passed an elderly couple in line waiting for a seat. I glanced at the gentleman’s conference badge and stopped dead in my tracks as the name Paul Runyan stared back at me. ‘What are the chances?’ I thought. ‘Could this really be happening?’ Perhaps we could arrange that rematch Snead so eagerly seemed to want.
My conversation with Paul Runyan and his wife was equally as pleasant as was Snead’s the day before. Upon informing him of my association with Shawnee and my talk with Mr. Snead, he was genuinely surprised and pleased to hear that Sam Snead still held his performance in such high regard. He remained as cool and relaxed in his demeanor as Snead was intense and steely-eyed.
Coincidence? Perhaps. Fate? Maybe. Mysterious connection? Some will think not.
The following week I was on Shawnee’s first fairway playing golf in a foot of snow at the annual “Chili” Open. This time, as my mind again recalled that championship match from 62 years ago, I felt a different, stronger connection than before. It felt as if a common thread, like a metaphysical silver chord had passed through time and space and provided a personal link to that tournament in 1938 and to those two players.
The nostalgia I had felt over the years had been experienced primarily through pictures in my imagination. Now, those pictures have come to life and are even more vivid and alive.
From now on, whenever I walk the fairways at Shawnee, I will feel a somewhat eerie and yet profound personal connection to these two great players. I remain open to the many, mysterious connections that this game creates. I’m not sure who to thank, Walt Disney or Shivas Irons.
Either way, it really is a small world after all.
Post Script: Paul Runyan died on March 17, 2002 at age 93. Sam Snead died about two months later a few days shy of his 90th birthday. Perhaps “the Slammer” managed to finally get the rematch he yearned for.